We Diabetes parents and patients tend to tell our “war stories” when together, and the one that resonates most is always the diagnosis story. I’ve decided to share ours today. Feel free to share yours as well.
I never sent my kids to pre-school. Or, as I learned to say after suffering the wrath of well-intentioned moms on the playground after my first child did not go (“She’ll never catch up! You’ve put her at such a disadvantage!”), I like to say, “I home-school pre-schooled.”
My reasons were varied. I worked in a home office but had an amazing nanny – almost Mary Poppin’s-like. I could not imagine a pre-school teacher being more connected to my kids or more educational. We lived in a very “neighborhoody” neighborhood, so playmates were never an issue. I could color and paste at home. Pre-school was expensive. They were already in dance and art class and swim lessons and more.
In any case, like my first child, my second never went to a day of school until Kindergarten. All went well for the first child. But with the second one, the trouble started right away.
A week before school started, she wet her bed. Then she did it again. And again. A week into school she was insolent, cranky and ill behaved. Her teacher – who knew me well since I was the school PTO president – pulled me aside one day and said, “I think she really does not like school. She keeps making up reasons to leave the classroom. The water fountain. The restroom. It’s endless.”
At the sidelines of her big sister’s soccer game, my youngest was so out of control I actually felt like I was going to deck her. A friend stepped in. “I have to run to the store,” Alice said, in the voice only a mother-of-five can muster to calm things the heck down. “Why don’t I take Lauren along with me?”
I was more than ready to let her go. While she was gone, I glanced out at the soccer game. But my mind was on my kindergartener. When had she turned “bad?” How had she somehow gone from delightful child to train wreck? And then I dawned on me.
I should have sent her to pre-school.
Those playground critics were right. She was ill prepared. I’d failed her. The bed-wetting, the whining, the misbehavior were all a direct product of my error. And now, she was never going to catch up. That was Saturday. I made a note to bring it up at her annual check up, scheduled for the following Tuesday.
Tuesday came and I picked her up from kindergarten and dismissed her big sister from grade school to zip them off to their annual check ups. A cassette was in, playing “Baby Beluga,” but my older daughter asked to pop in our family favorite, the B 52’s “Cosmic Thing” (my kids loved to chant along with Fred “Here come the girls!”) We all drifted off into our own worlds during the 20-minute drive.
My first born, Leigh, was singing along with every word and looking out as the marshlands of our area passed by. My youngest, Lauren, was out cold. And I was in a panic. Suddenly I realized: I’d been going to the pediatrician for 10 years now and barely ever had a question. Today, I had dozens. As I drove along I realized: something was dreadfully wrong.
When we got to the pedi’s office I roused Lauren, barely able to get her out of the car and inside the office. At check in I said, “We’re here for our annual checks ups, but I think something’s wrong.” I listed off a few concerns, and the nurse at the desk stood up and waved another nurse over.
“Do you think she can give you a urine sample,” she said, motioning toward my daughter. Now pee was one thing I knew she had plenty of.
We ducked into the little restroom where you do such things. I helped her hold the cup and she peed away. I lifted it up to the little “door in the wall” where you put such things and it just looked weird. For some reason, I felt sick. But I didn’t know why.
We stepped out of the room and around the corner. Within 30 seconds, there was a line of nurses and doctors standing, looking at us. One of them – I only remem ber it was a female voice – said, “What do you know about diabetes.”
Diabetes. Jesus. That was it.
“I know . . .. “ I choked out, almost screaming, “I know my daughter has it.”
And that was it. The moment it all changed. The moment diabetes came into our lives. The moment I switched from working mom of two cute girls to working mom of two cute girls who also happens to be kind of a full-time nurse and researcher and fundraiser and worrier.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t transition gracefully. I sobbed so hard that the doctor ran to get the lead doctor of the practice, whom I’d known since I was a child. At one point, I tried to just run away. Without my kids. I was completely out of my mind.
But by the time they got us to Children’s Hospital in Boston and shoved an IV line into my little girl to bring her back to life (after saying to her, right off, “You know that everything you’ve been going through lately – the bed wetting, the grouchy behavior, all of it – is not your fault, right?”), I was transforming. Rubbing a stuffed turtle against my daughter’s cheek (I’d demanded my husband RUN to the gift shop and get ANYTHING soothing and that was what he found), I vowed to her – and to myself – to make this work.
“It’s going to be okay,” I said as much to myself as I did to her. “We can do this. Mom’s right here with you.” And then, in my best Fred Schneider B-52 voice I sang, “Here come the girls.”
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